Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Poets at the Floyd Country Store

This story was published in The Floyd Press on May 1, 2008. It was also featured on the newspaper's website HERE.

"This is getting to be a real good smelling poetry reading,” said visiting poet Jim Webb in reference to the scent of popcorn coming from the front of the Floyd Country Store.

Webb and seven other members of The Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative (SAWC) were at the Country Store Friday afternoon for a round-robin poetry swap with members of the Floyd Writers Circle. The evening before, the visiting writers attended an event at Radford University (RU), celebrating the publication of All There is to Keep, a book of poetry by Rita Riddle, an RU English professor and SAWC member who died of cancer in 2006.

Webb works for Appalshop, a media arts center in Kentucky that produces documentaries, some of which have aired nationally on PBS. He was recording the Floyd readings for Kentucky’s WMMT FM, a mountain community, listener-supported station affiliated with Appalshop.

Floyd Press columnist Fred First, both a member of SAWC and the Floyd Writer’s Circle, hosted the Floyd event. Robert Cumming, Iris Press book publisher from Tennessee, was also present.

Readings of mostly poetry spanned subjects ranging from love and death to farming and tea drinking.

First read an essay from his book, Slow Road Home, about his childhood dread of asparagus. … My parents claimed this was a vegetable. To my mind, this vile substance was never anything more than a green poison created by children-loathing adults on the other side of the Iron Curtain ...

Dana Wildsmith, whose most recent book, One Good Hand, is a reference to her life of alternating farm chores with writing poetry, read a poem called “Southern Love Poem.” … You’re slicker than Talladega, as classic as Gone with the Wind, more hometown than Patty Loveless or REM, sweeter than Iris Dement. How could my heart not be yours? … Wildsmith, a teacher of writing and an ESL instructor from Georgia, authored a poem titled "Making a Living,” which was read on NPR by Garrison Keillor.

Webb, wearing a bright pistachio green shirt with one of his poems printed on it, read an impassioned poem decrying mountaintop removal. He lives on the second highest mountain peak in Kentucky, second in height only to another peak that he can see from his home, which is being strip-mined, he explained. … As close to heaven as you can get … Why doesn’t God complain … Call the cops … he read. Webb told the group, “until they stop mountain removal, I’m going to read this poem at every reading.”

Radford University teacher and former Floyd Countian Jim Minick edited the posthumously published book of Riddle's poetry and hosted the Thursday night book release event at RU. At the Floyd reading, Minick read some of his new poetry that will be included in a soon to be published collection. He spoke of the readings the night before and the impact of hearing SAWC members read Riddle’s poems. Members of SAWC and Iris Press were involved in the publication of All There is to Keep, and many were friends of Riddle.

Chelsea B. Adams, Floyd poet and writing teacher at RU, joined the circle, reading poems that Riddle had commented on when she and Riddle were in the same writers workshop group. Adams is author of Looking for a Landing, and Java Poems.

Other SWAC members attending were Ron Houchin, who has had three poetry books published in the U.S. and Ireland; Felicia Mitchell, a poet and writer who teaches at Emory & Henry College; David Hampton, who teaches high school English in North Carolina; and Beto Cumming, a book designer and editor for Iris Press.

Five members of the Floyd Writer’s Circle who shared their original work included First, Katherine Chantal, Jayn Avery, Mara Robbins, and Colleen Redman.

After the readings, the group mulled around a table display of their books, signing, selling, and trading them with each other. Writing resources and stories also got swapped. The visiting writers had dinner at Oddfellas Cantina and attended the Friday Night Jamboree. ~ Colleen Redman

Post Notes: To learn more about the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative, go to sawc.us. The mission statement on their website states an intention to foster community between Appalachian writers and encourage the publication of their works.

Photos: 1. Beto Cumming reading poetry at the SAWC/Floyd Writers Circle meet-up. 2. Dana Wildsmith reading as (left) Felicia Mitchell and (right) Robert Cumming listen. 3. Jim Webb reads a poem condemning the practice of mountain top removal.

~ Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on April 27, 2008.

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